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Alabama attorney general’s intervention in Benjamin, Massey recusal outrageous

January 23, 2009
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United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts issued the following statement today:

“The intervention of Alabama Attorney General Troy King (R) into the appeal of the Harman Mining v. Massey Energy case before the U.S. Supreme Court is an outrageous intrusion into the case and makes one wonder just what Mr. King is trying to do.

“Prior to his election to the West Virginia Supreme Court, Brent Benjamin was an unknown lawyer. He received virtually all of his campaign funding from the head of a powerful corporation– Massey Energy–and was the beneficiary of even more millions spent ‘independently’ on his behalf by that very same person. Once on the court, Benjamin was in a position to vote on matters that directly affected the financial well-being of his campaign benefactor and the corporation he runs. And vote he did, on more than one occasion, including the Harman decision.

“What is it about that sequence of events that Mr. King wants to protect?

“No state justice or judge, sitting on any court in any state, should be able to rule on a case that impacts a major contributor to that judge’s election campaign. That should be the law of the land, whether it be West Virginia, Alabama or anywhere else. In arguing to allow such a seamy practice to continue, Mr. King is in essence arguing to allow the appearance of impropriety to seep into the judicial system of every state in the country where judges are elected.

“What happened in the Harmon case is a travesty, and every person in West Virginia knows it. In addition, the American Bar Association, the League of Women Voters and many major American corporations filed briefs in this case supporting Harman’s appeal. In the words of one of those briefs, ‘There is the need to signal that...judicial decisions cannot be bought and sold.’ That is what happened in this case, and there is no way to put an end to it other than by Supreme Court action.

“Mr. King may believe it’s OK for judges to be bought and paid for, but no one other than the ones doing the buying would agree with him. A reversal of the Harmon decision by the Supreme Court is needed to relieve the concerns of ordinary citizens in West Virginia and elsewhere that justice can be for sale to the highest bidder.”

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